Following a nearly month-long media storm, former Navy cornerback Cameron Kinley will get his shot at the NFL after all.
While Kinley had an initial free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he learned days later the US Navy denied his delayed commission request — preventing him from having the chance to play professionally. But recently, that’s changed.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin retroactively approved Kinley’s request Tuesday, paving the way for the former Midshipman to pursue a career in professional football.
Austin’s ruling overrides a decision made by acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker to not approve Kinley’s waiver to delay his service commitment.
“The most valuable lesson that I’ve learned throughout his whole process is to trust His timing and remain confident in the fact that God will prevail,” Kinley said in a statement.
“Cameron Kinley had a right to submit a petition to the Board for Correction of Naval Records (BCNR), explaining that the decision not to forward his request to delay commissioning to participate in professional sports was an error or injustice requiring correction by the BCNR and relief by the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF),” a Navy spokesperson told Against All Enemies.
Kinley previously said he was hoping his situation would be a “catalyst” for change — both in allowing drafted service academy athletes the freedom to delay their active duty service commitment and play in professional leagues, but also to have a consistent policy that wouldn't leave students like himself “in the dark.”
While at the Naval Academy, Kinley played in 40 games across his four seasons for the Mids, tallying 87 tackles, 14 stops behind the line of scrimmage, 13 pass breakups, one interception and one forced fumble.
When Harker denied Kinley’s request, it made Kinley an outlier from other recent service academy graduates who had their waivers approved to pursue NFL dreams, such as Army’s Jon Rhattigan (Seattle Seahawks) and Nolan Laufenberg (Denver Broncos).
However, this decision does slightly alter Kinley’s previous plans of becoming a surface warfare officer.
According to the Department of Defense, he discussed his career options with U.S. Navy leadership and ultimately decided to rescind his commission and transfer to the inactive ready reserve for eight years.
Kinley is expected to join the Bucs training camp at the end of July.
“Upon completion of his playing time, we look forward to welcoming him back inside the ranks as a naval officer,” Austin said in a statement. “In the meantime, we know Cameron will take every opportunity on and off the field to ably represent the Navy and the military to the American people and to assist us in our recruiting efforts. I applaud Navy leadership for finding this way to showcase both Cameron’s athletic prowess, as well as the quality and professionalism of our student athletes and our personnel.”
President Joe Biden also released a statement regarding Kinley, saying: “I am confident that Cameron will represent the Navy well in the NFL, just as he did as a standout athlete and class president at the Naval Academy. After his NFL career is over, he will continue to make us proud as an officer in the United States Navy.”